the divorce of things
It was 2010 or so, a warm summer day, when an internet friend from a few states away backed into my driveway with her pickup. We loaded the cargo into the truck bed and when she pulled away, headed home with hundreds of my CDs, I cried.
I wanted to get rid of them; I needed to get rid of them. They were ignored, neglected, had become just another thing taking up space in my life. But it was still hard to see them go. I spent years and years developing the collection, nurturing it, looking at with affection and not the exasperation that would come later. I had outgrown the CDs and they would be better off in the arms and home of someone who would put them to good use. As the truck sped off, I waved solemnly. Goodbye, old punk rock compilations. Goodbye, Type O Negative discography. Goodbye Taking Back Sunday and Funkadelic and Melvins and Prong. Goodbye to all that. I felt a pang of sadness, I felt a part of my life being torn from me. But it was all for the best, I knew. It was the right thing to do. It was a material divorce.
For those of us who have a tendency to collect things, parting with them eventually is a sorrowful but necessary part of the process. We outgrow things, they fall out of favor with us, we grow tired of looking at them, we run out of space — physically and mentally — and have no choice.
I’ve parted with so many things that once meant the world to me. Star Wars toys and Pokemon cards — collections I carefully curated for my kids. Beanie Babies. Baseball cards. Sega games. At some point in my life I collected penguins; stuffed, glass, ceramic. I sold everything at various garage sales and always I felt a pang of remorse when I did so. Letting go of people is hard, letting go of things sometimes is equally so. It’s a divorce of sorts, a separation from something you once loved but you no longer have the room in your life for.
It pained me to sell all those Springsteen albums when I did, but the pain of looking at them after the divorce was harder. The same with all the graphic novels I got rid of in 2006 after a nasty breakup left me looking at them with disdain. All the Gaiman and Ellis and Ennis that I once loved were now artifacts of something ugly, and thus they had to go. As each book or record or game sold and went to be with someone else, a part of me went with them, and a part of me ceased to…